Two national surveys show that the percentage of people without health insurance has dropped steadily since the Affordable Care Act’s public insurance exchanges launched in 2013. A separate analysis focused on Wisconsin concluded that while the state now has fewer uninsured than it did in 2014 and a lower uninsured rate than the national average, progress has not been as great as hoped. These findings come at a time when all viable legal challenges to the law have been resolved and the start of the third public exchange open enrollment period is little more than three months away.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Health Interview Survey, the national uninsured rate has fallen to 9.2%. The study also found that 7 million more people had coverage in the first three months of this year compared to the 2014 average. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services further reported that nearly one million additional Americans have purchased insurance on the public exchange for individuals through a special enrollment period since February 22, 2015.
An independent survey by Gallup also found that uninsured rates have reached historic lows. It found that the uninsured rate dropped from 17.3% in 2013 to 11.7% in the first half of 2015. In Wisconsin, the uninsured rate declined from 11.7% to 5.6%. A separate study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute estimated that the state’s uninsured rate fell somewhere between 19% to 38%, which represents approximately 158,000 more people with insurance in the state than in the beginning of 2014. However, this tally is somewhat short of Governor Scott Walker’s goal of reducing the number of uninsured by 224,000.
Because so many people have gained coverage since the ACA was enacted, the law will likely prove difficult to repeal in the future. And even if the law is repealed in 2017 or later, the replacement plans proposed so far by Republican presidential candidates include some mechanisms to promote universal coverage and help individuals pay their premiums. Rather than blindly clinging to pre-ACA plans, employers and individuals should educate themselves on the plans available on the public exchanges and find out they are a better option. Open enrollment for the 2016 plan year will begin on November 1, 2015.